One of the benefits of being in one country for so long is that we have the chance to really get exposed to the culture of that place. This past week we were lucky enough to take a short trip to Cornwall- the west coast of the UK! Cornwall is a pretty inexpensive (by UK standards) place to take a quick holiday without leaving the country.
On our drive west, we stopped at Stonehenge.
It's amazing to think that a society worked together to move these stones hundreds of miles across the UK to their final resting place at Stonehenge. Once they got them on location, they then had to move them into their circle shape and somehow get them on top of each other. Talk about engineering feats. Oh, and they did all of this 3000 years BC. BC!!!!!
Stonehenge is unique only in the fact that it has lintels, or the horizontal stones that form the arches. In the nearby pastures there are many other standing stone formations and ancient burial grounds.
Continuing west, we made picnic stops at Okehampton Castle in Devon. We were pleasantly surprised by the great audio tour of these castle ruins. I think that back in its day (early 14th century) this would have been the most decorated castle we have been to yet.
Of course I had to check out the latrines. They were actually indoors and 'plumbed' to exit outside the castle!
We also stopped at Launceston Castle, which wasn't as impressive since it was only an entertaining castle for the Duke of Cornwall in the 13th Century.
'Wasn't impressive'...'only a castle for a Duke'....I think we are becoming desensitized to castles....
Early that evening, we made it to Newquay, where we stayed for 2 nights at a great B&B. Smuggler's Rest Guest House was great! For 30 pounds each per night ($40) we had a private ensuite room and a full English breakfast (eggs, sausage, bacon, tomatoes, mushroom, beans, potatoes and toast). The proprietors were extremely helpful and gave us a lot of advice for sightseeing during our short time there.
Newquay is a larger town on the west coast and popular with surfers. Walking around town we saw many shops selling tourist junk, restaurants advertising cheesy drink specials, families with small sandy children in tow, and old run down arcades. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we found the Virginia Beach of the UK.
Instead of miles of boardwalk, there are scary cliffs to drop off of....
For our only full day in Cornwall, we drove North up the coast to Tintagel Castle. More castles! Fun fact: Supposedly, the Duke of Cornwall shut his wife away at this spot to protect her from the lusts of the King of Britain. However, Merlin (yes- robes, wand and all!) magically transformed the King to look like the Duke so he could sleep with the Duke's wife. Kind of a messed up story, but it gets better! Of course the King (who looked like the Duke, thanks to Merlin) knocked up the Duke's wife and Arthur is born.
In order to get closer to the legendary King Arthur, one of Henry III's younger brother built his castle at Tintagel!
We made other stops at the quaint little town of Boscaslte, where we tried Cornish pasties, and walked the beach at Mawgan Porth. On the way back to London we stopped off the beaten path at Muchelney Abbey.
We toured what was left of the abbey and the nearby parish church. The 2 story building with the thatched roof (photo above) was the monks 2-story lavatory. (I swear I don't seek out the lavatories, they are all in the guidebook and the UK seems pretty pleased with all of their well preserved toilets.) It is in the middle of a small village and some of the property is privately owned. We witnessed someone vacuuming out their car in their medieval garage. WHAT? We still can't get over how old things are.
We really enjoyed our adventures to Cornwall! I give the Brit's a ton of credit. While Jeff and I were bundled up in our rain coats, since it was a brisk 60 degrees most of the time, everyone else was out on the beach in their bathing costume (we are picking up 'English words'). Nothing was going to stop them from enjoying their holiday!